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Ningaloo Coast
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Location Western Australia, Australia
Criteria Natural: (vii), (x)
Reference 1369
Inscription 2011 (35th Session)
Area 705,015 ha (1,742,130 acres)

The Ningaloo Coast is a World Heritage Site located in the north west coastal region of Western Australia. The 705,015-hectare (1,742,130-acre) heritage-listed area is located approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) north of Perth, along the East Indian Ocean. The distinctive Ningaloo Reef that fringes the Ningaloo Coast is 260 kilometres (160 mi) long and is Australia's largest fringing coral reef and the only large reef positioned very close to a landmass. The Muiron Islands and Cape Farquhar are within this coastal zone.

The coast and reef draw their name from the Australian Aboriginal Wajarri language word ningaloo meaning "promontory", "deepwater", or "high land jutting into the sea". The Yamatji peoples of the Baiyungu and Yinigudura clans have inhabited the area for over 30,000 years.

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage site

Whale shark Australia
Whale shark at the reef located off the Ningaloo Coast
Manta-ray australia
A manta ray with remoras at Ningaloo Reef.
Coral 2
Part of the coral reef pictured underwater in 2012.
Giant clam 2
A large clam pictured underwater in 2012.
Ningaloo reef shoreline
The Ningaloo Coastline, in 2012.
Reef wreck
Divers explore a ship wreck adjacent to the coral reef.
Stegostoma fasciatum ningaloo
Stegostoma fasciatum (zebra shark) pictured on the reef in 2007.
Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef from the air
Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef from the air.

The World Heritage status of the region was created and negotiated in 2011, and the adopted boundary included the Ningaloo Marine Park (Commonwealth waters), Ningaloo Marine Park (State waters) and Muiron Islands Marine Management Area (including the Muiron Islands), Jurabi Coastal Park, Bundegi Coastal Park, Cape Range National Park, and the Learmonth Air Weapons Range. The site was gazetted on the Australian National Heritage List on 6 January 2010 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

In 1987, the reef and surrounding waters were designated as the Ningaloo Marine Park.


Although most famed for its whale sharks which feed there during March to June, the reef is also rich in coral and other marine life. During the winter months, the reef is part of the migratory routes for dolphins, dugongs, manta rays and humpback whales. The beaches of the reef are an important breeding ground of the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. They also depend on the reef for nesting and food. The Ningaloo supports an abundance of fish (500 species), corals (300 species), molluscs (600 species) and many other marine invertebrates.

The reef is less than 0.5 kilometres (0.31 mi) offshore in some areas, such as Coral Bay. In 2006, researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science discovered gardens of sponges in the marine park's deeper waters that are thought to be species completely new to science. The short-nosed sea snake, thought to have been extinct for 17 years, was found on Ningaloo Reef in December 2015.

Ningaloo Collaborative Research Cluster

The Ningaloo Collaboration Cluster is a major research project that commenced in the region in 2007. It is part of the CSIRO flagship Collaboration Fund Research Initiative. The project involves researchers from the CSIRO, Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre and a range of Australian Universities including Curtin University of Technology, Murdoch University, University of Western Australia, Australian National University and the University of Queensland. The project will deliver a dynamic model of Ningaloo incorporating socioeconomic and environmental load implications of human activity in the region that can be integrated with an ecological model of the region with the ultimate aim of developing planning tools and management models to ensure sustainable use of the region.

The study involves the collection and processing of socioeconomic data from tourists and the host communities of Exmouth, Coral Bay and Carnarvon. It also involves the collection of data concerning the environmental load of human activity including natural resource use, waste generation, pollution, visual impacts and impacts on flora and fauna. The interactive project involves key stakeholders in the region including the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, the Shires of Carnarvon and Exmouth, local tourism organisations and Tourism WA, the Gascoyne Development Commission, the WA Department of Water and Environment, researchers from Wealth from the Oceans and Ningaloo Project, Chambers of Commerce, WA Department of Energy and Resources, WA Department of Fisheries, the WA Department for Planning and Infrastructure, the Ningaloo Sustainable Development Committee and Ningaloo Sustainable Development Office, Yamatji Land and Sea Council representatives, and the Ningaloo research community along with other cluster project members and the state's Ningaloo project. The project also engages with planners and managers in the region to examine tourism development and management.

Specific reserved areas

National parks and reserves in the World Heritage Area

Bays of the World Heritage area

Islands of the World Heritage area

  • North Muiron Island
  • South Muiron Island

Peninsulas of the World Heritage area

Marine Park zones

  • Bundegi Sanctuary Zone
  • Murat Sanctuary Zone
  • Lighthouse Bay Sanctuary Zone
  • Jurabi Sanctuary Zone
  • Tantabiddi Sanctuary Zone
  • Mangrove Sanctuary Zone
  • Lakeside Sanctuary Zone
  • Mandu Sanctuary Zone
  • Osprey Sanctuary Zone
  • Winderabandi Sanctuary Zone
  • Cloates Sanctuary Zone
  • Bateman Sanctuary Zone
  • Maud Sanctuary Zone
  • Pelican Sanctuary Zone
  • Cape Farquhar Sanctuary Zone
  • Gnaraloo Bay Sanctuary Zone
  • 3 Mile Sanctuary Zone
  • Turtles Sanctuary Zone
  • South Muiron Conservation Area
  • North Muiron Conservation Area
  • Sunday Island Conservation Area
Whale Shark AdF
Whale sharks

Coastal forecast area

Ningaloo Coast is a designated weather forecast area, by the Bureau of Meteorology.

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